Dr Amit Chakraborty, June 2023
Radiation exposure in medical imaging
Radiation exposure is a serious concern in diagnostic imaging procedures, such as X-rays, CT scans, and mammography. While these procedures are valuable diagnostic tools, they also expose patients to ionizing radiation, which can potentially cause harm. Therefore, it is important to understand the risks involved and how to minimise them.
To begin, radiation is energy that travels through space and matter in the form of waves or particles. Ionizing radiation is particularly dangerous as it has enough energy to remove tightly bound electrons from atoms, causing damage to DNA and potentially leading to cancer or other health problems.
Diagnostic imaging tests use various amounts of radiation, and the risk of harm depends on the amount and the type of radiation used, as well as the age and overall health of the patient. Children and pregnant women are particularly susceptible to radiation harm, as their cells reproduce rapidly and are more sensitive to ionizing radiation.
Despite the potential risks, diagnostic imaging tests can be highly valuable for detecting and diagnosing numerous medical conditions. Therefore, it is important to weigh the benefits against the risks of each procedure and to follow recommended guidelines for radiation safety.
To minimise radiation exposure, healthcare professionals should follow the ALARA principle, which stands for “As Low As Reasonably Achievable.” This means using the lowest possible amount of radiation necessary to produce an accurate image. Radiographic technique, positioning, and shielding also play important roles in minimizing the amount of radiation exposure.
Patients can also take steps to reduce their radiation exposure. For example, patients should always inform healthcare providers of any previous imaging tests and should avoid unnecessary procedures. Patients can also request that their healthcare providers follow the ALARA principle and use the lowest possible radiation dose for the procedure in question.
In conclusion, radiation exposure is a potential concern in diagnostic imaging procedures. However, by following the ALARA principle and recommended guidelines for radiation safety, healthcare professionals and patients can work together to minimise the risks and ensure the safety and accuracy of these crucial diagnostic tools.